Relatives of a 9-year-old boy killed by a falling tree at a Carroll County nature camp two years ago have filed a $12 million suit against the county, contending that camp managers should have protected the boy by cutting the dead hickory tree down before it fell and keeping children inside during high winds the morning of the accident.
Noah F. Asid's mother, Katherine A. Asid, and his late father's parents, Philip G. and Shirley J. Asid, filed the three-count wrongful death suit Wednesday morning in Carroll County Circuit Court.
The 23-page complaint naming Carroll County as the defendant, but no individuals, claims the county was "more interested in protecting its buildings than in protecting Noah F. Asid and the other kids" who were out for a hike the morning of Dec. 29, 2009, when the 100-foot tree fell. The suit claims that an employee of the Hashawha Environmental Center in Westminster, where the accident took place, told a detective that "dead trees that were within reach of the structures" at the camp had been cut down. The suit says that did not include the one that fell and struck Noah Asid.
Carroll County Attorney Timothy C. Burke could not be reached for comment. The county has 30 days to file an answer to the suit.
Noah Asid, who was living in Hanover, Pa., at the time, was attending the camp on winter holiday break from fourth grade at Hampstead Elementary School. He was walking along a path with 61 other children, when he was struck unconscious, according to the suit, and suffered a severe head injury. With his parents beside him, the suit says, he died on the morning of Dec. 31, 2009, at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The boy's father, Zaidan S. Asid, was shot to death at his home in Hampstead on March 16, 2010. Police said at the time that his fiancee's ex-husband, Michael Leo Swift III, blasted his way into the home with a shotgun, killing Asid, then himself. Asid's fiancee was in the house at the time but was not hurt.
The boy's mother was divorced from his father in 2008, court records show. Katherine Asid, 43, who has no other children, lives in Hanover, Pa., and works as a supermarket cashier, said one of the family's lawyers, Jack Lebowitz, who practices in Owings Mills.
The lawsuit quotes a report issued in January 2010 by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources describing extensive decay in the 95- to 100-foot tree indicating that the tree was dead before it fell. The report concluded that "significant decay at the base of the tree in combination with windy conditions caused the tree to fall near the ground."
The suit says three camp counselors "improperly took the children outside despite dangerous conditions," including a high-wind advisory from the National Weather Service. The suit says the weather service reported that average wind in the county was 23 mph an hour, with gusts of nearly 37 mph. The temperature that morning was about 28 degrees.
Another lawyer for the Asid family, Jamaal Thomas, said the statute of limitations allowed the suit to be filed within three years of the incident, or until December 2012.